HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Gammage Cup: A Novel of the Minnipins
Author: Carol Kendall
Illustrator: Erik Blegvad
Publisher: Young Readers Paperbacks, 2000
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 7 – 10
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Kendall, Carol. The Gammage Cup: A Novel of the Minnipins (published in 1959 by Odyssey Classics, an imprint of Harcourt Brace and Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Dr., Orlando, FL 32887). The Minnipins live in twelve villages along the banks of the Watercress River in the remote and inaccessible Land Between the Mountains. Some eight hundred years ago, they came here under their leader Gammage to escape a tribe of savage enemies known as Mushrooms or the Hairless Ones. In one of these villages, the very orderly Slipper-on-the-Water, the sober and sedate descendants of Fooley the Magnificent, have become the rulers and begun demanding conformity, where all the residents must wear green cloaks and paint their doors green. Another group known as “Oh, Them” rise up in opposition to the tradition-based existence of the other Minnipins. They are Walter the Earl who studies history, Curly Green who is a painter, and Gummy who is a poet. Strange things begin happening. Muggles, a young lady who presides at the Fooley Museum sees fire on the mountain in the dark, but no one believes her except the “Thems,” and her destiny is drawn into the company of the three oddballs.
Eventually, Muggles and her friends are outlawed, along with the town treasurer Mingy who also defends Walter, Gummy, and Curly, even as they become convinced that the whole valley could be in great danger from over (or through) the mountains. Banished to the mountainside, the five outcasts soon find evidence that the Mushroom people are planning to invade the Minnipins for their gold. Will they survive the attack? Can they find a way to warn the villagers on time? And what happens in the battle with the menace from the desolate lands outside the valley? This 1960 Newbery Honor Book has been described as a “Highly creative fantasy” that is “imaginative, amusing and thought-provoking.” There is a bit of witty word play, but some young students (aged 8-12) may not get a few of the jokes. The first half of the book, which may be a little difficult for younger kids to get into with its themes of conformity and individualism, is clearly a scathing warning against conformist tendencies class structure, and over reliance on tradition.
Then, with its strong good versus evil emphasis, especially in the second half when the Outlaws break away and the stirring action story begins, it’s also an almost allegorical warning against the threat from “outside the valley.” Many people may not like the fact that there is killing in the book, but it underscores the principle that some values are truly worth fighting for. An action packed, hilarious, yet thoughtful story that will make readers laugh at the ridiculous actions of the ruling Periods, but then make them think of the unique gifts often overlooked in ordinary people, it has everything—humor, adventure, danger, lovable and memorable characters, war, and love. One professional reviewer, who wrote, “I can see teachers in high school government classes using this novel to analyze how governments are created and retain power,” still called it “a weird one.” I wouldn’t say weird—just odd. But I Iiked it. The sequel, The Whisper of Glocken, was published in 1965.